sailing in south pacific on the horizon line travel blog brianna randall and rob roberts

Happy 4th from Tahiti!

Posted on 4 CommentsPosted in Family and Friends, Traveling

sailing in south pacific on the horizon line travel blog brianna randall and rob roberts

Happy 4th of July, friends and family!

First off, Tahiti says hello. She asked me to reach out palm fronds and rainbows, and blow wet sandy kisses toward you. It’s a cool volcanic island. Big. And way more crowded than we’re used to, after our month at sea and another month in more remote and deserted islands east of here. We’re overwhelmed by the choices at the magasin, where food offerings include more than pancake syrup and canned sausage. The hub of the South Pacific.

Second, we miss you all like hell. We think about you often, talk about what you’re up to, and how you’re faring. How odd it is that you all have new successes, adventures, challenges that we aren’t apart of. Most often, though, we talk about what it would be like to have one, two, or (best case) ALL of you with us. We bring you into different moments, visualizing how helpful it would be to have you by our side when we’re seasick or cranky, how awesome to snorkel with you through bright, vibrant fish, how cozy to sip coffee with you while anchored in turquoise water, how much we’d laugh at faux pas as we feel our way through the lessons of sailing and traveling. And then Rob and I sigh. We stay quiet for a few moments to savor the vision, and then return to reality.

Reality is pretty f-ing great, too. But know that it would be exponentially more unbelievable to share it with our favorite people.

sailing in south pacific on the horizon line travel blog brianna randall and rob roberts

Which brings us to the third point: come share this reality with us. Anyone want to take a winter vacation south of the equator?

Of course, that would mean we would have to know where we’ll be six months from now … and we rarely know where we’ll be six days forward. This morning, though, Rob and I sat with our map of islands and countries west of here. We had a big-kid talk about realistic goals for the rest of this sailing season. Here’s an update on our potential travel schedule for the next several months. Before reading on, however, a word of warning: this is all subject to change at any moment. Most of the fun for us lies in the ability to be completely flexible!

– Our 90-day visa in French Polynesia ends in late August, so we expect to stay in the Society Islands (Moorea, Bora Bora, Raiatea, Tahaa) for another ~6 weeks.

– Then we’ll likely hitchhike (sailhike? hitchsail?) to the Cook Islands, the next closest island chain, and spend 2-4 weeks exploring.

– After that, Tonga is top on the list of must-see countries. It’s the next major hub for cruisers heading west, and sounds like amazing sailing grounds. Rob and I hope to spend up to two months hopping around these islands.

– By then, it’ll be late October or early November, when sailboats are heading to safe spots to weather the hurricane season. Since we don’t have a boat, we’re in no rush to leave the islands. A couple of options for where we might be from November to February:

1) Head to American Samoa to spend some time on land. The Samoan island chain is diverse, with plenty of places to dive, snorkel, explore. We might even look for some temporary work for a few months. (Might be the key word!)
2) We know of lots of boats that plan to end their trip in November once the weather window ends. Many folks cross the Pacific, and then store or sell their boat in Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia or even Fiji. Rob and I will put out feelers to see if anyone needs a “boat sitter” during the off-season.
3) Someone offers us a killer deal on a sweet sailboat and we buy our own floating home and take off into the sunset. This is fairly unlikely, since we’re both still reveling in our lack of responsibilities, and owning a sailboat is a lot of work, money and headaches.

After that? Who the hell knows. We can barely wrap our head around where we might end up in the next 3 days, much less next year. But the current longer-term vision is to keep going. We really want to see Indonesia and Southeast Asia, too, and aren’t at all done exploring the South Pacific yet. We hope to hit up Melanesia (Solomans and Vanuatu) next March through July. And we’re even considering a trip home to Montana next summer before beginning the Indo/Asia portion of our adventure, so we can see your new houses, kiss the babies, and celebrate life with all of you.

There you have it, a rough agenda, which will likely change as quickly as the wind. Next season seems like eons from now, across so much space and time, so many un-met people and unknown circumstances that it makes me laugh to write down plans.

We hope you are all enjoying American independence in beautiful places with glorious people.

We miss you!
-Bri and Rob

sailing the south pacific on the horizon line travel blog brianna randall

Off To See The Wizard

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Sailing, Traveling

sailing the south pacific on the horizon line travel blog brianna randall

The blue-green waters surrounding French Polynesia just turned into a yellow brick road. Rob gets to be the Scarecrow, and I’m gonna try my hand at Dorothy. We’ve nominated a blacktip shark to be Toto, and the thousands of coral heads lurking just beneath the surface play the Wicked Witches and flying monkey things.

I know. You’re asking if I’m writing this while on some weird island mushroom, right? Or assuming I got a tad too much sun, maybe? Nope. I’m just letting you know that Rob and I have joined a new sailboat. It’s motto? “Off to see the Wizard.” Check out the boat’s blog if you don’t believe me. John and Sue Campbell, a semi-retired couple from Sonoma County, California, have generously offered to share their floating home with us for a bit.

sailing the south pacific on the horizon line travel blog brianna randall

Wizard is a Choate 40 racer-cruiser, very similar in layout (and speed!) to Kayanos, our last ride. We like her, and we really like John and Sue. The four of us all have a similar sense of humor, which is basically the most important ingredient for successfully sailing around in the largest ocean on earth. Sue’s learning to play the ukelele, and doesn’t mind that Rob and I belt out tunes at all hours. John is a laid-back, mostly-Buddhist captain (unless someone tries to anchor too close) who misses microbrews as much as I do.

We met Wizard and her crew our first day on land in Nuku Hiva after the big passage, and hit it off immediately. A month later, John and Sue offered to take us on a day sail to north Fakarava so we could “look for another ride” when Kayanos sailed to Tahiti. Well, we didn’t look very long … the day sail turned into many days as we sailed north to Toau. We’ll likely make the 2-day passage to Tahiti aboard Wizard, as well. In fact, John keeps mentioning that we should just go ahead and buy Wizard when they finish their sailing adventure this November.

Guess we’ll see where our yellow brick road ends up. Meanwhile, Rob and I will make sure to keep our bare feet from clicking together, since we’re not definitely not ready to go home.

sailing the south pacific on the horizon line travel blog brianna randall

Click here to read the full article and see more photos.

Rearview Moon

Posted on 6 CommentsPosted in Family and Friends, Reflections on Life

sunset while sailing in polynesia on the horizon line blog brianna randall and rob roberts

Ka-chook, ka-chook. Sshhhh. Sshhhh. Ka-chook, ka-chook. The sound of the paddleboard on the flat, calm surface of the water seems too loud in the so-still night air. I paddle farther from the dark sailboats anchored behind me, looking for more quiet. More alone. More space. More uninterrupted moonlight to glide over.

It’s the solstice. I keep thinking it’s the summer solstice, because that’s what’s supposed to happen in June. But here in the southern hemisphere, it’s the shortest day of the year. It’s confusing. So’s the full moon. Somehow, I feel like I’m in two places at once tonight.

It’s probably because of the sudden easy internet access. Yesterday, Facebook, email, blogs, and world news suddenly drew me out of my present and into others’. After almost a month without contact to the outside world, it’s disconcerting. It feels like I have parallell lives: one here in Fakarava, smack in the middle of the ocean at the start of winter. The other in Missoula, surrounded by mountains budding green and bright with the start of summer. It also feels sad, because I want to picture everything in those mountains just as I left it. Like a cupboard neatly stacked, locked frozen in time until I choose to open the doors again.

But life doesn’t work that way. The doors are not mine to open or close.

This full moon is full of change. My loved ones have news of transitions. They are moving to new houses and jobs and towns, and the worst part is that I can’t picture where they are. How they’re sitting on the couch. What their back porch looks like, or the pictures above their new desk. And what happens to the old spaces that they vacate? Or the decade of memories that inhabit those spaces? Is the energy I send to those homes, offices, porches in search of their spirits resting on another person? Weird. Creepy, even.

I stop paddling and stare at the reflection of the moon beyond my little toe. It’s so much smaller reflected on the water than when I look it in the eye. Same goes for the hole in my heart. It’s hard to look longing in the eye. Much easier to peek at it in a rearview mirror, acknowledge it’s general position and then drive the other way. Tonight, though, the moon is holding no prisoners — she’s shoving my longing front and center, telling me to find my anchor rather than drift through fake reflections.

So, I did. I cried tonight. I felt that longing open wide and deep when I saw pictures of the kids looking grown-up, heard my sister’s voice, read that my mom didn’t feel good, reluctantly sent my regrets for not attending a wedding. I took a deep breath, burning down the back of my achy throat. “Look where you are,” I said sternly to myself. “Give thanks for this place, this moment, this moon on this water. The grass is not greener in Montana, merely a different texture.”

Sshhh. Sshhh. I spend a moment on the flat saltwater disengaging my brain and heart from the flurry of my friends, my home, my family back home. I send my love through the wavering moonbeams. And then I paddle back, ka-chook ka-chook, to Wizard, where Rob is drawing pictures of fish and the wonderful couple sharing their boat with us is sleeping soundly.

I paddled through the shortest night of the year on a winter solstice that felt like the warmest summer night I could remember, holding two worlds in the space of a small reflection riding next to my little toe.

 

rainbow sailboat marquesas tropical island on the horizon line blog

Check out our new digs.

Posted on Posted in Sailing, Traveling

rainbow sailboat marquesas tropical island on the horizon line blog

We have a new address here in French Polynesia.  Instead of telling people to find us “on the light green ketch called Llyr,” we now give directions to the “dark blue sloop named Kayanos.”

Last night we schlepped our shit over to Ben and Sarah’s 42-foot sailboat.  Somehow our belongings managed to undergo mitosis aboard Llyr and doubled in size.  We transported one backpack each to one pack + 3 bags + 2 sacks of fruit each via dinghy in the wet, dark Marquesan night.  Good thing we only went about 200 yards.

Why move, you ask?  Because transitions are part of our adventure.  Because Llyr is on a tight schedule for getting to Tahiti and we’d like to spend as long as possible exploring the underwater world in the Tuamotus, a series of coral atoll islands that circle world-class lagoons.  Because Ben and Sarah offered us space, and we thought it’d be fun to go with folks younger than us.

Rob and I learned a ton about electronics, provisioning, and how to care for steel boats during our time aboard Llyr.  We had a blast with the Steele-McCutchen clan, and look forward to seeing them in many bays and ports along the way.

How’d we find our new digs?  By chatting with folks in the small town of Taiohae and “knocking on hatches” as we scooted around the bay in a dinghy.  In this case, we made friends with John and Sue aboard Wizard, who pointed us toward Kayanos.  It’s a fairly small community of sailboats hopping Pacific islands, and we’ve already made friends with boats we keep seeing in different ports.

sailing tuamotus crew on the horizon line blog

Ben and Sarah are both in their mid-20s, and grew up outside of Anchorage, Alaska.  Ben bought Kayanos with his buddy in San Diego, and spent a year fixing her up in preparation for the voyage across the Pacific.  He’s a climber and a surfer and an excellent sailor.  Kayanos is a 1970s racing boat, about as opposite a vessel from Llyr as you can get.  Instead of radar, roller furlers and SSB, we have hanked-on sails, a solar panel and paper charts.  She speeds along at 7-8 knots easily, and rarely requires a motor.

We’re looking forward to learning more about Kayanos and her crew for the next few weeks.  The plan: head to the northeast corner of Nuku Hiva to check out the secluded Anaho Bay, and then set off Monday or Tuesday for the ~4 day passage to the Tuamotu archipelago.  We hope to visit 3-4 atolls in the Tuamotus over the following 2 weeks, where we’ll snorkel and dive with sharks, rays, and a huge diversity of fish.  It’s gonna be awesome.

 

crew of llyr on the horizon line sailing blog cruise pacific crossing

Meet the Crew Sailing the Pacific

Posted on Posted in Family and Friends, Ocean Tales

Llyr under sail - on the horizon line with rob and briThe Steele-McCutchin family is awesome.  Rob and I feel fortunate to have found such good people to spend a few months with, and such capable people to sail with across the largest ocean on the planet.  They bought Llyr 4 years ago because they were ready for new expeditions.  None of them had much previous sailing experience, but they took loads of offshore courses before sailing south from Maine to Panama last summer, spending 4 months cruising in the Caribbean along the way.  You might notice their red hue in the photos below, which gives away their Scottish-Irish roots (and indicates it was early in the trip!).

Their grand plan is to set Llyr up permanently in Vanuatu (Melanesia) as a research vessel dedicated to documenting the impacts of climate change on coral reefs.  During the storm season in the southern hemisphere (October to March), they’ll return to their family-owned maple syrup farm in western Massachusetts to collect the sweet nectar of New England maples.  Here’s a snapshot of Llyr’s crew:

llyr sailing pacific on the horizon line cruising blog

Meet Brooks.  He’s the skipper, the mechanic, and the weather expert.  Brooks is good-humored in his role at the helm of Llyr and his role as the oldest aboard.  He also handles stressful situations calmly (thank god), and loves to converse about theories related to everything from education to climate change to how to change to oil mast most efficiently.  As a clinical psychologist during his first career and a farmer during his second, Brooks enjoys figuring out how and why things work like they do.  You can find him in the engine room, or trouble-shooting random problems from bow to stern.

llyr sailing pacific on the horizon line cruising blog

Meet Janis.  She’s the head caretaker of this big brood aboard Llyr, keeping our daily operations running smoothly.  A fluent French speaker from Montreal, Janis is a trained anthropologist, and likes to stretch, eat dark green foods, and sew.  If you have an idea, she’ll likely be able to make it a reality.  You can find her cooking up tasty sauces or creating a wind-scoop from old flags.

llyr sailing pacific on the horizon line cruising blog

Meet Connor.  He’s 18 going on 28, a brand-new high school graduate with an EMT (emergency medical training) license, a great sense of humor and a clear head.  Connor is the first mate, and is intimately familiar with Llyr’s many electronic and navigation systems.  He’s going to spend the fall and winter in Australia this year, and planning to head to college as a pre-med major after that.  Meanwhile, you can find Connor helping his dad with troubleshooting, surfing Facebook (at the marina only), or teasing his younger brothers (gently).

llyr sailing pacific on the horizon line cruising blog

Meet Rowan.  At  15, he’s doing a much better job of leaving his social circle than I would have at that age.  Rowan is a detail guy, and sees the little things the big-picture thinkers might miss.  He loves to dive, and reads incessantly…he actually burned out his Kindle in the first week.  You can find Rowan cramming in calculus (gotta make sure he’s caught up after his few months out of the classroom!), listening to music, or scarfing down sodas or milk.

crew of llyr on the horizon line sailing blog cruise pacific crossing

Meet Gavin.  He’s the life of the party, and the youngest crew member at 10 years old.  Gavin loves to draw and write and fish and kayak and swim and jump and chat and play games.  He provides comic relief for the rest of the crew, and much-needed energy when others might be tired of chores.  You can find Gavin eating PB&J sandwiches, sleeping in the cockpit, or trying to climb the mast when his parents aren’t looking.

on the horizon line - cruising and travel blog

Finding Peace in La Paz

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Reflections on Life

Missoula Montana downtown over Clark Fork RiverWe just got back from a lovely meal with fellow Montanans who live here in La Paz.  (I know: our recent posts make it like Montanans are rapidly colonizing Baja California).  Josh Schroeder and his wife, Nieves, welcomed us into their home., and made us prawns, pasta and plenty of wine.  We ate with his sister, mom and grandpa, who are down visiting.  They commiserated over our losses, and shared some of their own more poignant and meaningful loss of a loved one.  We laughed, broke some glasses, and heard stories of Josh and Rob catching exorbitant numbers of giant trout in Alaska.

Many folks have commented on how positive we’ve been after the rocky start to our voyage, including Josh, and his mom, Joyce.  It made me realize a couple of things:

1) I haven’t shared the fact that Rob and I had many rough spots the past week.  One of us gets cranky or frustrated or sad or pissed off at the situation at least once a day.

2) What brings us back from the low spots are people like the Schroeders, as well as of our other friends, near and far.

on the horizon line - cruising and travel blogIt does suck to get robbed, not because of the stuff that disappears, but because it’s an insult.  It makes us feel dumb, naive, played, helpless.  In fact, my morning today was one of my lowest spots yet, as I oscillated between clicking “buy now” on many of the items we just lost versus wanting to burn half the remaining 25 pounds of stuff I still have (it’s true: I packed too many clothes).  I felt like La Paz and I will just never get along, as if we’re star-crossed lovers that can’t find a groove.

During the low points, I really miss my sister, and the girlfriends who know me inside and out.  I wonder how, exactly, I think I can live without them for months on end.  But then, hours later, I’ve found that total strangers feel almost as close as the family I ached for earlier.  I’ve found that La Paz is peaceful at night, with bright stars overhead and a cool breeze that laughs away my feelings of fated doom and gloom.

If I haven’t portrayed the frustrations and pain, it’s because the low points are often overshadowed by the view from the high points.  The voids fill.  The troughs crest.  All waves recede…and roll right on back in again.

chinese lantern wishes in baja california - on the horizon line sailing blog

The Curse of the Chinese Lantern

Posted on 7 CommentsPosted in Family and Friends, Reflections on Life

chinese lantern wishes in baja california - on the horizon line sailing blogThe first five days of our trip were magical.  Easy.  Simple.  Relaxing.  Good people in a gorgeous spot, with few hassles and lots of laughter.  We felt blessed.

So, on the fourth night with our current tribe of saltwater-loving friends on the beach in Pescadero, Baja California, we made a feast to celebrate the sun-filled joy.  We barbecued over a wheelbarrow fire, played Yahtzee, told stories.  And then we decided to light off a Chinese sky lantern to send our wishes to the heavens.  These ancient floating orbs are like mini helium balloons, with a big paper body surrounding a little fire that lifts the lantern high into the night sky.  Chinese holidays and celebrations often feature a lantern lift-off, a tradition reminiscent of blowing out birthday candles in the U.S.

After making sure the wind was right, we each made a wish and took pictures (not these, though, due to subsequent events) as the three-foot lantern ascended toward the stars.  It started off slowly toward the north, then veered south at a fast clip as it hit winds in the stratosphere.  The closer it got to the heavens, the more it looked like a star of its own.  Then it faded out.

chinese lantern wishes in baja california - on the horizon line sailing blogThe next morning, the corpse of the blue lantern was in our driveway, about 30 feet from where we lit it off.  The six of us looked at each other in complete confusion, and discussed the improbability — impossibility, almost — of the lantern landing back where it started, especially since we’d watched it cruise so far south.  Bizarre, we agreed.  Borderline creepy.  We decided it must be good luck, because it made us feel better about the improbable return of our wishes.

Turns out, it wasn’t good luck.  The very next morning, we awoke to find a trifecta of a shit-storm had descended upon our happy tribe: $3,500+ of our electronics were stolen, Katie had horrible food poisoning, and Alan and Bequia’s 16-year-old dog seemed to be heading to the heavens herself.  We weathered the storms, said our goodbyes, and drove to La Paz to stay on Mark and Katie’s boat for the night.  Our exhaustion had us leaving much of our gear in the car outside the marina, and heading immediately to bed.  We awoke to find the shit-storm still in full swing: Katie and Mark’s car stolen, along with all of the gear inside.

Again, it seems improbable — impossible even — to have that much bad karma in a 24-hour period.  The only plausible explanation is that we were cursed by the Chinese sky lantern.  You’re not supposed to see your wishes return to earth when you’ve explicitly bequeathed them to the stars.  Our wishes spiraled in reverse and exploded in our faces for a brief but intense reality-check.

Now for the good news: our friend Brandon gave us a kata before we left Missoula, blessed by Tibetan lamas.  We broke it out last night and hung it from the boom to fight off the curse.  It seems to be working.  Katie and Mark will likely get insurance for the stolen goods, and already have offers of potential rides back to the States. Rob and I got an offer to go sailing for the next few days to nearby islands with a couple anchored here in La Paz.

The moral of the story?  Be careful what you wish for, and always check the winds twice.

 

handmade cards from kids - on the horizon line sailing blog

A Snapshot of Our Last Days in Missoula

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Family and Friends, Traveling

handmade cards from kids - on the horizon line sailing blog

Going away cards from our buddies, Jiah and Solan Grillo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

on the horizon line sailing blog - travel prep

My last bike ride through Greenough Park along Rattlesnake Creek.  It’s been a helluva lovely commute these past ten years!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

on the horizon line sailing blog

The new neighborhood grocery store on our kitchen floor, post cupboard clean-out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

on the horizon line sailing blog

And the cupboards for the last few days … we practiced living on a boat by using one spoon, one bowl and one cup each.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

on the horizon line sailing blog - travel prep

Remember how everything has to fit in a 12′ x 12′ area in the back of our garage? Here’s about half that space.  You can tell we like boots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

on the horizon line sailing blog - travel prep

These favorites somehow didn’t make it into the book bin in time.  Maybe because we wanted to read them until the very last minute?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

on the horizon line sailing blog - travel prep

My carry-ons tomorrow.  We fly out of Missoula at 7am. (And, no, it’s not a weapon or a fishing tool … it’s my mini guitar in Rob’s homemade case.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

on the horizon line sailing blog - travel prep

The sum total of Rob’s belongings for the next 2 years: 2 sweet dry bags + travel purse + big hat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

on the horizon line sailing blog

In between moving our own junk, we helped friends move a REALLY heavy clawfoot tub up their stairs. They fed us dinner in return.

 

 

 

 

 

 

on the horizon line sailing blog

We had a continuous “free” pile at the bottom of the driveway. Most of our stuff didn’t move very far: here’s our lawn chair just across the street, and I just spotted our shelves next door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

on the horizon line sailing blog

After selling both cars mid-week, we were lucky enough to borrow the Kesslers’ jeep.  Rob had to pump up the leaking tire with a bike pump a couple of times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

on the horizon line sailing blog - kids at dinner

Goodbye dinners have been the highlight of each day, as we took a break from packing and cleaning to share meals with our favorite people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

full moon brianna randall on the horizon line blog

Full Moon Tears

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Reflections on Life

full moon brianna randall on the horizon line blogThe tears just keep on rolling.  I could blame it on the full moon or hormones, both of which are certainly affecting my mood.  But I’d be lying if I didn’t give credit to the fact I’m just plain sad to say goodbye to my loved ones.

I cry when I see our doggie bounding up to lick my face.  I cry when my sister leaves to go back to her house.  I cry when Kipper calls to tell me it’ll be hard to say goodbye.  I cry when Margi gives me a hug and refuses to say goodbye.  I cry when I bike across the creek and along the river that I’ve followed every day for a decade.

And I’ll probably keep crying for the next month, as the moon wanes then waxes again until it is just shy of full on the morning we fly away from my home.

 

kevin, mamie, and willow - our next door neighbors in missoula, montana on the horizon line

Happy Hillside Commune

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Parenting

Chickens, dogs, and kiddos at the happy hillside commune - on the horizon line with bri and rob

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You might not know it, but Bri and Rob are part of a…dare I say it…commune. That’s right, call them hippies or hipsters, these two belong to the Happy Hillside Commune: A N’Amish Community. What’s N’Amish you ask?

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Well it’s NOT Amish, aka N’Amish. This lucky group consists of any number of neighbors and friends who live or gather on our street in the Rattlesnake neighborhood of Missoula. We share our fence lines, but not our husbands.  We share our wine, chicken eggs, hot tubs, and saunas, but not bank accounts.

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We share our hillside with the deer, our view of the valley, power tools, ideas, and occasionally old clothes we don’t want anymore.  In short, it’s perfect.

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So, to my new neighbors welcome, but ya’ll have some big shoes to fill.

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There is a worn path between our houses snaking through each other’s yards. On sunny summer nights you can find us outside having family style dinners, sipping wine and gabbing. We watch the hills turn brown and glowy. Real family members stop by like Bri’s parents. There’s sure to be game on the grill. Maybe even a deer from the actual hillside or an elk from further up the valley. Friends from out of town might be there, marveling at Missoula’s off the radar coolness.

N'Amish commune dinner party at bri and rob's house in Missoula

We try to convince them that winters are cold. “Don’t tell people about Missoula” we joke. “Really, it’s dark in the winter.”  My husband and I once made a list of the essential things you need to have to make it through a Montana winter. It included: a down coat, someone to snuggle with, a ski pass, good tires on your car, and I would add…neighbors who will bring you Tylenol at 11 pm when you get the flu. I actually sent a text to one of my N’Amish members that said, “check on me in the morning to make sure I made it through the night.” She did, and I did. These are the neighbors I always hoped I’d have.

Rob has a funny way of loitering in his own yard. You know he’s working on some kind of garden projects but doing it on his own timeframe, a timeframe steeped in a molasses-like active slowness. Rob’s tropical cadence will fit right in in the South Pacific.  He often lingers at the fence or pops over into our yard like their free-roaming chickens. Happy to give advice on seedlings, lift something heavy or pass on a story about his time in Madagascar. (As a tall white man in a village where children had never seen anyone but their own, he literally made children pee themselves). Bri consistently poaches our wireless booster to talk on her cell phone.  I have seen her many a time, talking, pacing around our yard trying to stay warm while she chats.

bri, cassidy and mamie after mamie painted our faces at the park near our house - on the horizon line

The blur between our yards and worlds makes me feel loved and part of something. There is a great yogic philosopher who says that what we are missing in this world is intimacy. Not the sexual kind, but the kind that comes from knowing someone well, from removing the boundaries we live within in western society. The kind of close ties and caring that comes with time, experience, mutual compassion and group parties in the hot tub watching shooting stars. Yeah, we have that.

In a few weeks the N’Amish will be losing key members to a trip into the unknown. The Happy Hillside Commune will go virtual. Bri and Rob, as you wander the ocean, more than a little bit of us will be with you.  Your body contains the soil of this hillside. Your muscles developed from protein of the deer that roamed these mountains.  Your dog Abe continually pooped in my yard, and I didn’t mind one bit. Your heart is forged N’Amish. Don’t you forget it.

kevin, mamie, and willow - our next door neighbors in missoula, montana on the horizon line

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